Earth Hour

Earth Hour is nearly here. On Saturday 28th March at 8.30 pm local time you are urged switch your lights off in an effort to help save the planet.  

The lights go out for Earth Hour
The lights go out for Earth Hour

The movement began in Sydney in 2007. More than 2 million people switched off their lights for one hour. During 2008 the movement gathered momentum and public landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Golden Gate Bridge were darkened as people across the world became aware of sustainability. Even more landmarks will be involved this year including Table Mountain in South Africa.

You are encouraged to vote for Planet Earth, and it simply does not matter what nationality you are, the vote is equal for all. It affects everyone. It is described as 

A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.

 

The Earth Hour organisation uses technology to the full, asking you to send photos, videos or stories about what global warming means to you in your part of the world and what action you are taking to help solve the problem.

You are encouraged to run your own Earth Hour and are told that “thinking small can be big thinking”. How do you have fun whilst not using any power? Well you could do what I am planning, which is invite friends for supper (already cooked!) and then eat it by candlelight. You could, as suggested by Earth Hour, use cameras to record the event on photo and video. Any music will have to be self-made but unfortunately we have no musicians coming for dinner…unless the guests want to start a sing-song! The hour might well be spent discussing energy and what can be done to save energy in our daily routine.

Climate change and the effects of it are well publicised, yet not everyone believes what they hear or read. There are some sceptics among us. Healthy scepticism is of course a good thing but the evidence must be considered. 
Put simply there are gases surrounding the Earth which mean that the heat from the sun is retained to warm the Earth’s surface. This is the “greenhouse effect”. The fact that the earth’s temperature is increasing has consequences on weather across the world.  Greenhouse gases are produced by people in their daily lives and whilst they have been on the increase since the time of the industrial revolution, they have increased most notably since the mid 20th century.  Severe winter storms have increased over the second half of the 20th Century and the increased rainfall means problems for those who live on our coasts. Since Scotland has a very long coast this could affect a large part of our small nation but, according to figures from the World Development Movement, 95 per cent of people who die from weather related disasters are from developing countries. 
Another statistic from the WDM confirms that it takes just three days for the average UK citizen to emit as much carbon dioxide as the average Malawian will all year. 

The United Kingdom is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol which is an international environment treaty signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The treaty is an effort by many nations to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to prevent the increase in global temperature beyond certain limits.   This treaty has led to a carbon trading system for those countries where the economy depends on industries which result in greenhouse gas emissions. These nations can offset the emissions produced by buying carbon credits from other countries.

Importantly the US neither ratified nor withdrew from the protocol under the Bush administration, although it did sign the protocol. There are high hopes that the Obama administration will deal with the problem more effectively than in the past, and indeed one of the new government’s first actions has been to promise an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.  (All of these levels are compared to levels in 1990.)

In Scotland, the Scottish Government is actively debating the Climate Change Bill.  Shirey Anne Somerville MSP told me :-

    The Bill has been widely welcomed and if passed will mean that Scotland will have the one of the most ambitious pieces of climate legislation in the world.

    As you will no doubt be aware the Bill proposes an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.  This includes all greenhous gases and will also include Scotland’s share of international aviation and shipping.  The government has acknowledged that the principle of sustainable development must be at the heart of the Bill as it is only through such development that we will have a continuous reduction in our net carbon emissions. 

At the same time the Government is honest enough to admit that if we all lived as we do in Scotland then we would need three planets. 

The Scottish Government states clearly on its website that 

The Scottish Government recognises that climate change will have far reaching effects on Scotland’s economy, its people and its environment and is determined to play its part in rising to this challenge.

Holyrood has launched many “green” initiatives such as the carrier bag campaign involving Scottish retailers, to remind Scottish shoppers that it is a good idea to remember to reuse their plastic carrier bags. Research shows that more people think this is a good idea than actually remember to do so. But if you need something to help you remember then Sainsburys’ slogan “Take an old bag shopping” has to be one of the best and most memorable advertising slogans ever.  For an illuminating and completely shocking expose of the plastic bag see the website for 10,000 birds.  The town of Modbury in Devon has its own website and claims to be completely plastic bag free. It is not only the effect on wildlife which is the legacy of the plastic bag. It is also the way in which they use up so many resources for such a short-lived benefit unless they are reused. 

The Scottish Climate Change Bill aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 and is aimed at generating 50% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, with an interim target of 31% by 2011. It also contains provisions to establish future annual targets. Alex Salmond, First Minister, is firmly supportive of the notion that Scotland could become the Saudi Arabia equivalent of the renewable energy market. 

On a personal level I use the bus, walk or cycle. I only use the car for journeys out of the city when public transport is either not available or difficult.  All of our lightbulbs are as far as possible the low energy green type. It makes a huge difference to the electricity bill but more importantly will, in the long run, make a huge difference to the energy which we all use in our homes.

One way that bus and train companies could help is by using smaller vehicles more often. Why do trains and buses stop at 11 p.m? It often means that you cannot use public transport to go out since you would be stranded if you miss the last train. The last train can be either entertaining or positively dangerous if you are a lone female traveller.  If public transport was available to all of us 24 hours a day then more of us might all be persuaded out of our cars. In Edinburgh we have the City Car Club which enables city residents who do not own a car to use one when they need to.

Sweden has promised that it will focus principally on climate change from July 1st when it takes over the presidency of the EU, according to the Irish Times  

It is hoped that the way has now been smoothed for a post-Kyoto agreement among the nations of the world, including the US.  

Sweden is well poised to promote this policy. It has already decided that it will become carbon neutral by 2050. It has set a target of running all transport on fuels other than the so called fossil fuels of diesel or petrol by 2030. 

But there are those who do not believe that the changes in our weather patterns are wholly attributable to the greenhouse effect.  A report issued by the Cambridge based European Science and Environment Forum in 2002 suggested that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had not based its arguments on the correct foundations. They go on to say that it is not possible to change the complex global weather patterns simply by controlling greenhouse gases. 

So whether or not you believe in climate change or the greenhouse effect do your wee bit for Planet Earth. Turn the lights out for an hour on March 28th! 

 

Earth Hour - will you do your bit?
Earth Hour - will you do your bit?

 

 


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